Saturday, April 30, 2011
Is the Bible 100% True? In Defense of Inerrancy.
Do you really believe that the Bible is 100% true? Is it important to believe it is altogether true or is it okay to believe some of the Word of God is good moral writings that teach us lessons? My work on the inerrancy of the Bible will help anyone who is interested come to their own conclusions on the matter.
(Use of any part of this critique requires proper citation.)
In Defense of Bible Inerrancy: Working through the Maze of Concepts and Concerns
If we are to believe that Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind, then upholding inerrancy of Scripture is imperative to faith in a God who is fully faithful and true. The defense of Scriptural inerrancy is in effect, defense of God Himself. The Scriptures have been diligently and meticulously kept since ancient times and God has overseen His Word and kept it for all generations. However, inerrancy has been and continues to be a theological debate among noted scholars, students, and believers. When we can adequately defend Scriptural inerrancy against apparent discrepancies, problems and concerns, we also uphold His reputation as the one true God. Therefore, it is imperative to not only uphold Scriptural inerrancy, but to be able to defend the Scripture in a concise manner to all who ask or have doubt about its integrity.
Concepts of Inerrancy
The inerrancy of Scripture refers to the fact that the autographs or original manuscripts of Scripture are completely truthful. It means that the Bible always tells the truth in everything it contains. It does not mean, however, that it is exhaustive in every subject it contains, but affirms that what it does say about any subject is true. It also connotes that the Bible has neither
material errors nor internal contradictions. The text has been accurately transmitted in every detail. It is imperative that Christians believe all events and facts that the Bible relates are totally reliable regardless of the opinions of scholars, scientists and philosophers. Alleged errors in the autographs can and have been rectified by theologians and scholars, negating the arguments of non-evangelical scholars. In his work, “Inerrancy,” Norman Geisler has systematically worked through many of these issues of debate and controversy showing that most have clear historic and scientific resolutions defending the material in the autographs.
The authority of the Bible can be hinged on 2 Timothy 3:15-17 which states,
“and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
This is the scope, purpose, and nature of Scripture. The Greek word for inspired literally means, “God-breathed.” He is the author of His Word. While the Holy Spirit guided the hearts and minds of men to pen the words, they are the words of God Himself. The Bible’s authority cannot be separated from this qualification. The Bible was not written that we may become scholars but God speaks through His Word so that we may know Him and be transformed into His likeness. It is with this in mind that we understand the authority it carries. As the book of the history of salvation, its purpose is to align us in right relationship with God, “and it is this point of view that represents and defines the authority of Scripture.” The Bible is, from Genesis toRevelation, a unified revelation of God by God given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to men. To make assessments and distinctions between what is and what is not inspired is to elevate one’s self above the authority of the Word. Humans inspired by God wrote the Word for God’s divine purposes.
Still, some hold that the Bible is only authoritative in matters of faith and practice. Wayne Grudem insists that this belief allows for discrepancies in “minor” details including historical and scientific facts. Those who stand in this position adhere to Biblical infallibility but not inerrancy. Scripture does not qualify one subject or verse as having more or less validity than another. Jesus Himself never questioned the veracity of Scripture. He did not distinguish between matters of faith and practice. When He fought the enemy in the wilderness, He used the Word of God without reservation. As our role model, we can have the same faith in the Word of God.
Prophetic inspiration and God’s will within historic events are the results of divine revelation. Inspiration refers to the content of the Bible rather than the process by which it came into being. Yet, we understand that the human vessels color the language and tone of the inspired works by their culture, experiences, and personalities. Inspiration by nature involves infallibility from the Holy Spirit’s selection of words to the humans who were chosen to be the agents of those words. Those who wrote the words were not dictated to but guided in their hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. Their writings, therefore, are accurate records acquired from direct revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Jesus unequivocally upheld the Scripture as “historically true, completely authoritative, and divinely inspired.” He consistently quoted the Old Testament in a literal way to teach, inspire, warn, confront and even to oppose the enemy himself. Jesus said repeatedly, “Have you not read…?” implying, “Don’t you know that God has said…?” Jesus makes no clarification or delineation between what is inspired and inerrant and what is not. His use of the books of history, law, psalms and prophecy took His listeners to every part of the Old Testament without discrimination and gives us solid ground to have faith in the Scripture as absolutely true.
Positions on Inerrancy
It is essential to keep the inspiration of God’s Spirit in mind when discussing the differing positions held in regard to inerrancy. There are those scholars who hold that inerrancy is not a relevant issue—that the Bible can be regarded as authoritative without subscribing to inerrancy. Dewey M. Beegle insists that any number of errors may be found in the Bible and yet it can still be considered God’s Word. He goes as far as saying that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit” to permit errors to be made within the Scripture. However there are literally hundreds of implications in the Bible that it is God’s Word and purified “like silver tried in a furnace.” (Psalm 12:6)
Other scholars maintain that inerrancy of the Bible is applied to spiritual truths relating to salvation and living as a believer. The Bible is not a historical or scientific record but is limited in these areas as God did not reveal to the writers empirical knowledge they did not already have. Those who uphold this view of limited inerrancy refer to the Bible as infallible in its purpose of faith and practice.
It is clear that Jesus and the disciples held to absolute inerrancy of the Scriptures. The New Testament writers made no distinction between what had been written only for faith and practice and that which was historical or scientific. Indeed, they attributed truth to every detail of the Scripture. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament included many miracles and history including stories about Jonah and the great fish, (Matt 12:40) Naaman’s miracle (Luke 4:27) and the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. (2Peter 2:6-7) The writers of the New Testament did not differentiate between historical accounts and matters of doctrine or moral code.
In Romans 15:4, Paul declares that the Old Testament was written for our instruction. Revelation 22:18-19 gives a stern warning about adding or taking away from God’s Word. All of His inspired Word is His Word as He intended. Humans who impose limitations on the Scripture’s truthfulness regard their own opinions higher than God’s Word.
Importance of Inerrancy
It has also been the historical position of the church that the Bible is absolutely inerrant in all that it teaches including matters of science and history. Augustine believed that the Scripture was “free from error,” Although Martin Luther and John Calvin believed in the full trustworthiness of the Bible, they at times waivered from their positions. Nevertheless, the church has held firm its stand on the accuracy of the Scripture. It has been noted that where belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is compromised, the alteration of other foundations of the church are easily compromised as well. To move from a position of faith in the Bible’s inerrant nature is to compromise its authority as well as the foundational beliefs on which the church was built.
As Christians, if the Bible teaches on a matter of history, science, morality, or faith, we must believe it. Those who refer to the infallibility of Scripture instead of its infallibility and inerrancy would argue that a single error in the Bible should not characterize the whole of the Scripture untruthful. However, if we do not stand upon absolute Biblical inerrancy, we compromise and jeopardize the very foundations of our faith. It calls into question everything else in the Scripture. Erickson refers to this as “false in one, uncertain in all.”
Challenges to Inerrancy
With this in mind, we must understand that challenges to the Bible’s veracity are to be taken seriously. It cannot be understated that the reputation and credibility of the Scriptures as God’s Holy Word are at stake. Inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture are formally recognized in the original manuscripts. This acknowledgement is intended as a reality for textual transmission. However, it has also become a basis for scholarly ridicule of current documents as we do not have the autographs. The reoccurring question is how can the current renderings be considered inerrant if we cannot hold them against the originals? In his essay, “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Text, Form, and Authority,” Moises Silva states, “The simple answer is that, with regard to the bulk of Scripture, we know what the autographs said. To be more specific, the possibility of textual variation hardly ever affects those passages that are claimed by some to teach error or falsehood.” Wayne Grudem states that although the autographs did not survive, “for over 99 percent of the words in the Bible, we know what the original manuscripts said…and there are very few places where the textual variant is both difficult to evaluate and significant in determining the meaning.” He further states “The current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts.”
It is obvious that the Bible was written by humans who were not in and of themselves inerrant. This has led critics to deny Biblical inerrancy as it was subject to human frailty. Some consider the balance between humanity and divine inspiration of Scripture a foremost consideration in the discussion of inerrancy. Many contemporary scholars including Kant and Brunner insisted that occasional encounters with God by fallen men gave way to inspired but imperfect Scripture. Geisler makes the stunning proclamation, “If true humanness on the part of Scriptural authors implies errancy, then to have a valid analogy to Christ, he must also argue that true humanness implies Christ’s sinfulness.” The entirety of Christ’s Gospel is therefore nullified if this is any way truth. Man’s part in writing of Scripture was to transmit what he received. Although they contributed personality, linguistic style, and cultural attributes, they contributed nothing theologically. They expressed their natural inclinations without corrupting the content of God’s inspiration.
Some scholars have either stated or implied that the Bible contains obvious errors. As believers, it is not apostasy to investigate these allegations. Indeed, we should look forward to seeking the truth and knowing that as we inspect the Word of God, it will be proven true. It may be necessary to seek expertise in terms of language, culture, history, archeology or science.
However, difficulties and apparent discrepancies in the Biblical text should not be judged as errors. If investigated fully, most of these passages can be justified. Theologians have worked through many of these issues of historical and scientific “problems” and have offered reasonable explanations. Numerical differences, the genealogies of Christ, the location of Joseph’s grave, dating the Exodus, and issues of phenomenological language are a few of the issues that have been adequately addressed. Believers must continue to work toward resolutions for problem passages rather than compromise the whole of Scripture to the denial of inerrancy.
Higher criticism has caused many contemporary scholars and theologians to compromise their thinking about inerrancy. Attempts to ascertain facts regarding Scriptural authorship, date, place, literary style, etc. is not negative in and of itself. However, higher criticism seeks to do so by investigating human processes without the benefit of divine revelation or inspiration. The result is all too often negative and skeptical judgment that may overlook commitment to honest evaluation. Referring to one method of higher criticism as “the historical-critical method,” Harold Lindsell calls it the Bible’s greatest enemy in his book, “The Bible in the Balance.” This method is concerned with studying any narrative conveying historical information to determine its historical accuracy. Formulated on the presumption that only if Scripture can be proved should it be accepted, doubt is substituted for faith and with this approach, those who seek to find ways to deny Scriptural veracity will do so by their own means. The Bible is then subject to conclusions drawn by men from extra-biblical materials. Earl D. Radmacher agrees with
Lindsell’s assessment of the historic critical method saying that it has eroded and destroyed the foundation of the Christian faith in a manner not seen since the days of Marcion.
The Bible is the authority on rules of faith and life for believers. Its authority is intact only if it is trustworthy. If the Bible is not inerrant, then its authority is not only diminished, it is destroyed. Other sources must be found as the Bible then becomes an insufficient source for foundational teachings on morality, faith and life. The denial of inerrancy has significant consequences. Numbers 23:19 states, “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” If God is not a liar, then His Word must be true. If He has spoken we can rely on every Word. To question this is to position ourselves on the “slippery slope” where doubt begins to override faith.
Harold Lindsell insists that once inerrancy is abandoned, apostasy follows. “No matter how sincere a man may be, and however carefully he guards against further theological concessions, they are inevitable once inerrancy is given up.”
Secular criticisms about the Bible’s veracity have filtered into the church until believers “approach some of its authoritative claims with great reservation.” Dismissed as myth, folklore or superstition, the Bible is viewed as archaic and irrelevant. If inerrancy is denied, how then do we trust God? If He speaks to us by His Holy Spirit, is He being truthful if His Word is not reliable? A denial of the truthfulness of Scripture must then filter into the ability to bring others into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is the way of truth that gives hope to the lost. A compromised Word cannot maintain the powerful impact on the unsaved as a God who is not all truthful may or may not care to deliver salvation and healing to those in need. The same can be said in counseling the hurting, broken hearted, or wayward soul. To understand that God is a god of love and all-sufficiency, that He is no respecter of persons and He is faithful and true--this is what brings deliverance to those in desperate need. Compromise can offer only less than the life-giving, life-changing Gospel that God intended. Geisler quotes S.T. David as saying that if a Christian doubts Scriptural inerrancy for faith and practice, “He must hold to some other authority or criterion as well. That authority, I am not embarrassed to say, is his own mind, his own ability to reason.”
Believing the Bible is God’s Word and that God can only speak the truth significantly effects how we approach what is considered an “alleged error” or controversial text. To study less clear passages of Scripture with the assistance of those which speak more clearly on the same subject is the kind of inductive study that will result in the truth. In any case, what is given to us in Scripture is God’s Word by His divine authority. It must never become subject to one’s own interpretation and opinion. 2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
The doctrine of inerrancy can serve as the common ground upon which believers can unite among the many legitimate differences of dogma and Biblical interpretation. A common commitment to seek the truth and an agreement that truth will be found in Scripture is a basis for crossing denominational and other dividing lines in the body of Christ. John 17:11-26 records Jesus’ impassioned plea that we would be one as He and the Father are one that the Father may be glorified. There are issues in which the body of Christ cannot be divided if Jesus’ prayer is to be realized. Faith in the Scripture as the pure, trustworthy, inerrant Word of God is certainly outstanding among those issues.
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Beegle, Dewey M. Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility. Ann Arbor, MI: Pryor Pettengill, Publisher, 1979.
Burk, Danny R. “Is Inerrancy Sufficient? A Plea to Biblical Scholars Concerning the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 50, (Fall2007): 76-91.
Bush, L. Russ. “Understanding Biblical Inerrancy.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 50 (Fall 2007): 20-55.
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Lindsell, Harold. The Bible in Balance. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979.
McKim, Donald K. Ed. The Authoritative Word: Essays on the Nature of Scripture, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1983.
Radmacher, Earl D. and Preus, Robert D, Eds. Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.